Aaron Pico’s growth as an MMA fighter was graphically on display Friday night.
In Uncasville, Connecticut, Pico defeated Solo Hatley Jr. by first-round submission (rear naked choke) on a Bellator card at Mohegan Sun Casino.
Pico, a Southern California native who now lives in Albuquerque and trains at Jackson-Wink MMA, improved his record to 6-3. Hatley, of Little Rock, Arkansas, is 8-3.
Pico, an outstanding amateur wrestler, signed with Bellator as a highly touted prospect in 2017. But his inexperience in the cage was evident as he lost three of his first seven fights.
Friday, Pico showed new skills. He took Hatley down 30 seconds into the fight and punished him with some effective ground-and-pound before securing the choke hold.
Pico’s first five victories had all come via strikes.
“It’s just good to get a win. (It shows) what we’re doing (in the gym) is working,” Pico said after the fight on the Paramount Network telecast.